3/17/2009

happy saint patRICK'S DAY !

Saint Patrick's Day is The National Holiday O' Rick, aka the hubster.
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I wasn't born an Irishman, but I married one as soon as I could........Even in this little outpost of civilization on the prairie, we prepare for weeks, sometimes months, to celebrate this day in a properly festive manner. A schedule must be followed for this day, and each activity has its own special part. You see, I married an Irishman......and this day may be one of the most important in his entire yearly calendar. In the early years of marriage, celebrating this day was all quite foreign to me, (GFT claims Germany and England as her ancestor's homelands, with a touch of France and Native American thrown in for spice), and I often jumbled up what was required of me to do. However, with the passage of time, I have embraced hubster's traditions, and now see myself as a special envoy of Irishness wherever I go. *
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The first step, naturally, is to wear green all day. I remember as a little child not getting this one right some years, it was all quite random to me, and I probably forgot completely about it or else didn't even own green clothing, and there was always some annoying kid at school who would pinch me repeatedly (I mean, come on ! Isn't once enough ? Doesn't that "count" ? What's up with this every 5 seconds crap ? ) because I had nothing green on. (I always tried to say I was wearing green underwear, but that kid wasn't buying it. Did I look like the kind of kid who even owned green underwear ? I don't think so.) Holidays in my spartan Presbyterian childhood were rarely celebrated at all...some years, my mom even found cooking for Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving dinners to be too much of a pain; she was always busy ironing ( just what, I am not certain, as she strongly disliked either entertaining or going out - so just what was it that she wanted to get the wrinkles out of ? curtains?) and we simply foraged for ourselves in the pantry, eating leftovers or soup or whatever was handy. So the entire concept of wearing a special ensemble just for this day was completely foreign to me.
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Now, of course, this is not the case. I have an entire wardrobe of green items - heavy long sleeve sweatshirts, sweaters, turtlenecks and coats from when we lived in the northeast ...... lightweight t-shirts for this semi-tropical paradise we now call home. Green socks, hats, suspenders, and various accessories such as pins, blinking shamrock necklaces, silly leprechaun hats, buttons that say "Kiss Me I'm Irish", or "Let's Play Hide the Leprechaun", green antennae, silly wigs, giant bow ties, etc. Wearing a green shirt on St Paddy's Day is quite an art . You have to find something as close to Kelly green as you can, yet it still needs to be a shade that looks good on you. Not everyone can wear green. GFT needs a blue-ish hue, as things that are too yellow make me look sallow. Yet one must be careful - teal, forest green, mint, or lime green are really "iffy" choices, and smack of half-hearted attempts.
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All these clothing requirements mean that one must, at some point, shop especially for St Patrick's Day, and this was where the ritual "exchanging O' the gifts" got started. St Patrick's Day merchandise only appears in stores for a brief moment in the retail season - often sandwiched in quickly between Valentine's Day and Easter paraphernalia. Blink twice and it's gone - either all bought up, or consigned to back shelf "clearance" areas. Hubster is a difficult enough person to shop for, as it is. He doesn't collect golf clubs, rare editions, or sports cars. Most things he wants, such as CDs or sporting goods equipment, he buys for himself whenever the whim strikes him. So it's handy to have a theme he collects , and this is a ready made opportunity. For hubster , you see, has turned our game room into "Rick's Irish Pub", (he was inspired when we bought this house, for this room has carpeting almost exactly the same as the carpeting found in our old college hangout, aka Willy's Pub....lord knows how much time we all spent looking at that nasty carpet, the pattern is forever indelibly ingrained on our subconsciouses -it's a 60's style pattern in green and gold and matches the pool table, et al), and hubster never ceases to fill it with both beer-themed art and Irish memorabilia. It is a classic bastion of male tasteless fantasy. I advise any wife to allow her husband just such a room in the house, for then all that decorative "art" that he brings home from gas stations, dumpster diving, Spencer's Gifts and garage sales can then be gathered into this one safe space. To further this incredible collection hubster has, I often shop for St Paddy's Day themed items, such as beer mugs, Guinness posters, Irish nick-knacks, leprechaun dolls , you name it, he's got it - and give them to him . It makes him happy, and makes up for the sometimes difficult task of finding something he wants for XMAS or his birthday.
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It goes without saying that you can't spend St Paddy's Day without listening to Irish music. In the early years, we often took in a parade or two, depending on where we lived and if there was a good one nearby. These often happen on the Saturday before the actual day, and so barely count as part of the celebration. Parades and the obligatory bar-hopping are just not enough to sate the musical requirements of the man. Hubster absolutely MUST listen to "The Unicorn Song" at least 3 or 4 times throughout the day, once an hour would be better, or he doesn't feel as if he's experienced the true "Irishman in a bar" moment. He does have several CD mixes he has put together over the years, modern Celtic bands mixed with traditional stuff, which he floats through the massive sound system that not only connects every room in our home, but wafts out into the backyard, as well. I'm sure the neighbors appreciate it. This mix plays in our home all day long, for HOURS without any one song repeating.
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The day culminates with an evening spent in the closest thing we can find to an Irish type pub, depending on where we live at any given moment. In the early years, I tried to get into the spirit of the day and cook an Irish meal, but after a few valiant attempts, hubster admitted that he really doesn't care for traditional Irish foods. So much for that one. Now we simply go out, eat whatever bar food strikes our fancy, and raise a glass to Saint Patrick. It is a tradition I keep wherever I am ; for example, last year I found myself in Paris on St Paddy's. Fortunately, there are some wonderfully authentic Irish bars in Paris, so my companions and I managed to celebrate appropriately, even in the land of Frenchmen. I have in fact celebrated March 17 all over the world, and sampled some of the great traditions of cities with vibrant Irish populations such as New York, Boston, San Francisco . It must be noted that drinking green beer does not count as authentic if it is lite beer. Guinness, as the ads used to say, "is good for you", and a much stouter choice. 'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'Happy St. Patrick's Day!
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Check out my fave north Texas Irish Celtic band, the Killdares
http://www.killdares.com/



*The envoy part : Today it just so happened that I was at the dentist's for my six month teeth cleaning. Now, my dentist is a very kind man, and a wonderful dentist. He is, however, a member of one of those large fundamentalist faiths which treat Denton as "ground zero" in their plan to evangelize the hordes of impressionable college students that fill this town. As I walked into his office and climbed into the chair, he said to me, "I see you are wearing green. I admit I've never really understood what all the fuss is about. What is the big celebration for ? Who is Saint Patrick ? Why is he associated with Ireland ? Why is he so important ? What do shamrocks and leprechauns and all that other stuff have to do with it ? " Well, it just so happens that GFT knew all the answers, having read Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization and taught in a parochial school. I know all about saints' days and who the various saints are, what they are associated with, the history of Christianity, and why the ecclesiastical year is divided up the way it is. (I am also a student of world mythology, and know a fair amount of Celtic traditions as well. ) What is amazing to me is that other purportedly Christian faiths.......don't.

History of Saint Patrick's Day
http://www.history.com/minisites/stpatricksday/

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